(Paris) French President Emmanuel Macron finally broke his silence on Wednesday after weeks of intense social tension, saying he had no or almost no regrets about the unpopular pension reform, which he wants to see applied “ before the end of the year “.
The Head of State simply conceded a possible regret, that “of not having succeeded in convincing people of the need for this reform”, during a television interview, during which he repeated the arguments to justify the new law.
“ This reform is not a pleasure, it is not a luxury, it is a necessity”, he commented, again invoking the need to respond to the financial deterioration of pension funds and to the aging of the population, France being one of the European countries where the legal retirement age is the lowest.
The law provides for raising the legal age from 62 to 64.
“ I am not looking to be re-elected […], but between short-term polls and the general interest of the country, I choose the general interest of the country ”, further affirmed the Head of State, adding that “ if it is necessary behind to endorse unpopularity today, I will endorse it ”.
And Emmanuel Macron insisted on the fact that the reform must be applied “ before the end of the year ” “ for things to fall into place”.
Highly anticipated, the interview with the president, which lasted 35 minutes, made both the opposition and the trade union world jump.
The herald of the radical left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, 4th in the 2022 presidential election, denounced the “ traditional marks of contempt ” and the “ arrogance ” of Emmanuel Macron, who according to him “ lives outside all reality ”.
“ He is in absolute denial ”, criticized the leader of the socialist party, Olivier Faure from the National Assembly. “I fear that he has put no more explosives on an already well lit inferno”, he added.
There was also indignation on the side of the unions, which organized and supervised a large-scale peaceful protest for two months.
His statements are “ outrageous and contempt for the millions of people who are demonstrating ”, reacted the general secretary of the CGT union, Philippe Martinez. “This interview is lunar. It’s, “It’s fine, I’m doing everything fine, nothing is happening in the street.” There is no answer”, he denounced.
The boss of the reformist union CFDT Laurent Berger for his part accused the president of “lying” concerning his organization’s position on pensions.
On the eve of a new national day of trade union mobilization, the head of state confirmed that he was neither going to dissolve the National Assembly, nor reshuffle the government, nor call a referendum on his decried reform.
Nor was he moved by the reproaches made to the government for its forced passage — the executive used a constitutional provision, article 49.3, allowing the adoption of a text without a vote — because it did not have a majority ready to vote for the text in the Assembly, exacerbating popular anger.
So far peaceful and framed by the unions, the protest has since given the use of “49.3” signs of radicalization. Tense exchanges oppose demonstrators and police every evening, especially in Paris.
Tuesday evening, 128 arrests were made in France, bringing to nearly a thousand the number of people arrested since last Thursday.
“ When the United States of America went through what they went through on Capitol Hill, when Brazil went through what it went through […], I tell you very clearly ”, “ we cannot accept either the factious nor factions”, observed Mr. Macron in reference to insurrectional episodes experienced in these two countries. “We will not tolerate any overflow”, he then insisted.
Strikes and blockades also continue, particularly in oil depots. Incidents erupted Tuesday in Fos-sur-Mer, near Marseille (south), where the authorities requisitioned striking staff when 12% of the country’s service stations are running out of gasoline or diesel.
The port of Marseille-Fos, one of the largest in France, was totally blocked as part of a “dead ports” day of action at the call of the CGT union and a highway in the Marseille region was closed due to pallet and tire fires set on fire by protesters.
“Necessary” pension reform, assumed unpopularity, renewed confidence in Élisabeth Borne: here are the main statements by Emmanuel Macron during his television interview on TF1 and France 2, Wednesday, in the midst of social protest.
Despite the challenge, President Emmanuel Macron considered that this reform was “ necessary ”. “ There are not 36 solutions ” apart from raising the legal retirement age to 64 years old. The Head of State wanted the flagship project of his second five-year term to come “ into force by the end of the year ” so that 1.8 million retirees “ start to be increased by around 600 euros per year on average”.
“I am not looking to be re-elected […], but, between short-term polls and the general interest of the country, I choose the general interest of the country,” said the Head of State. “ If it is necessary behind to endorse unpopularity today, I will endorse it ”.
“ When the United States of America went through what they went through on Capitol Hill, when Brazil went through what it went through […], I tell you very clearly ”, “ we cannot accept either the factious nor the factions”, assured the president.
Emmanuel Macron claimed to “respect” the unions which “have legitimacy when they parade, when they demonstrate”, but regretted that the latter had not presented a “compromise proposal” on the text of the reform. He says he is ready to “ re-engage ” a dialogue with them on working conditions to hear “ this need for justice ” expressed in the street.
Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne “has my confidence to lead this government team”, declared the Head of State. He added that he had asked him “ to build a legislative program, a government program […] to have both fewer laws, shorter, clearer texts, to also change things for our compatriots in a more tangible “. He also asked him to “expand the majority”, without further details.
“ The project of all the oppositions is the deficit”, “ there is no alternative majority”, he insisted.
“ There is still a bit of cynicism at work, when we have large companies that make such exceptional income that they end up using this money to buy back their own shares ”, declared the head of the State. He intends to “ask the government to work on an exceptional contribution”.
The immigration bill will be “divided” into “shorter texts” which will be examined “in the coming weeks” by Parliament.